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Does The State of California Have Money For You?

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Check the California State Controller’s Website for Unclaimed Property

By Laura L. Klure, Special to the Black Voice News–

Are there any dollars sitting unclaimed in Sacramento for you? Or for your church, or any organization you care about? Searching the California State Controller’s website could be a good idea. Go to www.sco.ca.gov and check it out.

Within a very short time, searching for your friends and family members can often uncover many small amounts of money.

Occasionally one finds claims that could amount to multiple thousands of dollars.

Why would somebody’s money have gone to the state? According to the Controller’s website, California’s Unclaimed Property Law requires corporations, businesses, associations, financial institutions, and insurance companies to annually report and deliver property to the State Controller’s Office if there has been no activity on the account or contact with the owner for a period of time specified in the law—generally three years.

In recent years, State Controller John Chiang has been making a greater effort than was done in the past to try to return funds to their rightful owners. In particular, local governments have become more aware of the process, and they are being more regular in checking the website and retrieving their funds. Chiang has initiated reforms that increase the odds that account owners will be adequately informed.

However, there are ways to search that uncover more Unclaimed Property listings than you might expect. Sometimes the funds became “unclaimed” because there was an incomplete name, misspelled information, a wrong address, etc. , that made some payment undeliverable. Hint: try searching for just your last name and the city, then add more names if that brings up too much information.

Or, search by your whole name without adding the city, especially if you’ve moved in recent years.

Entering less information can bring up more possible claims – for example, a recent search entering just the letters NAACP, without designating a city, brought up a list of 55 claims, funds that could be reclaimed by NAACP groups throughout the state. Click on the case number to see details. Many are small amounts, but some NAACP groups could recover more than $1,000 each. The San Francisco NAACP has $5,000 in unclaimed property.

Try searching for the clubs or sports groups that are the favorites of your family members. There’s unclaimed money for “Little League,” for “AYSO” (soccer), and other groups. If you enter fewer words in your search, such as just typing “Black Women,” you will see listings for various organizations where the name starts with those words. A search for “Second Baptist” yields money for churches in various communities. Funds can be located for groups in California cities, or sometimes even organizations with offices in other states.

Arranging the names or words in a different order can produce different results: a search for “City of San Bernardino” listed 17 claims, whereas searching for “San Bernardino City” brought up 26 different unclaimed properties.

Claims can often be for so few dollars that it’s not worth doing the paperwork to try to reclaim the money. However, note that shares of stock may be listed for a “0” dollar amount, when the total value could be well worth chasing. It does take some effort to reclaim property, and documentation is needed. Some claims must be notarized.

It can be especially difficult if names have changed, information was listed in error, or you’ve moved multiple times, or someone connected with the account has died.

The website lists lots of helpful information, such as: How do you find out if you have unclaimed property? How does the state get unclaimed property? How can you keep property from going to the state? What about unclaimed property in other states? What happens to safety deposit box contents if you fail to pay the box fee? (Yes, the Controller has items from deposit boxes as well as money.)

Additional topics are discussed on the website, along with instructions for filing claims.

Be aware that there is no fee if you file your claim directly with the Controller’s office. There are investigators who try to help people regain funds, but this is not essential and their fees are limited to 10 percent. It’s also important to understand that it may take quite a while for a claim to be processed (sometimes 180 days), because the Controller’s office is busy with many duties.

If you’re not online at home, consider using the public library’s computers to visit the Controller’s website. You can print out claim forms to file by regular mail.

Caution: the search may yield claims for other people with the same name as yours, so don’t get too excited if that happens. For example, there are many other folks out there with the last name “Brown” who might benefit by checking the website.

In an economy where every little bit can help, we wish you “happy hunting” for your unclaimed property!

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